PDF Editing in PHP?


Does anyone know of a good method for editing PDFs in PHP? Preferably open-source/zero-license cost methods. :)

I am thinking along the lines of opening a PDF file, replacing text in the PDF and then writing out the modified version of the PDF?

I have programmatically created PDF files in the past using FPDF, but found it a little unwieldy at times.

This question is tagged with php pdf

~ Asked on 2008-08-10 21:58:24

10 Answers


If you are taking a 'fill in the blank' approach, you can precisely position text anywhere you want on the page. So it's relatively easy (if not a bit tedious) to add the missing text to the document. For example with Zend Framework:

require_once 'Zend/Pdf.php';

$pdf = Zend_Pdf::load('blank.pdf');
$page = $pdf->pages[0];
$font = Zend_Pdf_Font::fontWithName(Zend_Pdf_Font::FONT_HELVETICA);
$page->setFont($font, 12);
$page->drawText('Hello world!', 72, 720);

If you're trying to replace inline content, such as a "[placeholder string]," it gets much more complicated. While it's technically possible to do, you're likely to mess up the layout of the page.

A PDF document is comprised of a set of primitive drawing operations: line here, image here, text chunk there, etc. It does not contain any information about the layout intent of those primitives.

~ Answered on 2008-08-11 00:49:58


There is a free and easy to use PDF class to create PDF documents. It's called FPDF. In combination with FPDI (http://www.setasign.de/products/pdf-php-solutions/fpdi) it is even possible to edit PDF documents. The following code shows how to use FPDF and FPDI to fill an existing gift coupon with the user data.

$pdf = new FPDI();


// import page 1 
$tplIdx = $this->pdf->importPage(1); 
//use the imported page and place it at point 0,0; calculate width and height
//automaticallay and ajust the page size to the size of the imported page 
$this->pdf->useTemplate($tplIdx, 0, 0, 0, 0, true); 

// now write some text above the imported page 
$this->pdf->SetFont('Arial', '', '13'); 
//set position in pdf document
$this->pdf->SetXY(20, 20);
//first parameter defines the line height
$this->pdf->Write(0, 'gift code');
//force the browser to download the output
$this->pdf->Output('gift_coupon_generated.pdf', 'D');

~ Answered on 2010-11-15 12:31:15


If you need really simple PDFs, then Zend or FPDF is fine. However I find them difficult and frustrating to work with. Also, because of the way the API works, there's no good way to separate content from presentation from business logic.

For that reason, I use dompdf, which automatically converts HTML and CSS to PDF documents. You can lay out a template just as you would for an HTML page and use standard HTML syntax. You can even include an external CSS file. The library isn't perfect and very complex markup or css sometimes gets mangled, but I haven't found anything else that works as well.

~ Answered on 2008-08-27 09:59:34


Don't know if this is an option, but it would work very similar to Zend's pdf library, but you don't need to load a bunch of extra code (the zend framework). It just extends FPDF.


Here you can basically do the same thing. Load the PDF, write over top of it, and then save to a new PDF. In FPDI you basically insert the PDF as an image so you can put whatever you want over it.

But again, this uses FPDF, so if you don't want to use that, then it won't work.

~ Answered on 2008-09-09 22:46:40


Zend Framework can load and edit existing PDF files. I think it supports revisions too.

I use it to create docs in a project, and it works great. Never edited one though.

Check out the doc here

~ Answered on 2008-08-10 23:16:39


The PDF/pdflib extension documentation in PHP is sparse (something that has been noted in bugs.php.net) - I reccommend you use the Zend library.

~ Answered on 2008-08-21 16:15:39


Tcpdf is also a good liabrary for generating pdf in php http://www.tcpdf.org/

~ Answered on 2012-05-29 12:38:35


I really had high hopes for dompdf (it is a cool idea) but the positioning issue are a major factor in my using fpdf. Though it is tedious as every element has to be set; it is powerful as all get out.

I lay an image underneath my workspace in the document to put my layout on top of to fit. Its always been sufficient even for columns (requires a tiny bit of php string calculation, but nothing too terribly heady).

Good luck.

~ Answered on 2008-09-18 00:55:36


We use pdflib to create PDF files from our rails apps. It has bindings for PHP, and a ton of other languages.

We use the commmercial version, but they also have a free/open source version which has some limitations.

Unfortunately, this only allows creation of PDF's.

If you want to open and 'edit' existing files, pdflib do provide a product which does this this, but costs a LOT

~ Answered on 2008-08-10 22:41:00



//getting new instance
$pdfFile = new_pdf();

PDF_open_file($pdfFile, " ");

//document info
pdf_set_info($pdfFile, "Auther", "Ahmed Elbshry");
pdf_set_info($pdfFile, "Creator", "Ahmed Elbshry");
pdf_set_info($pdfFile, "Title", "PDFlib");
pdf_set_info($pdfFile, "Subject", "Using PDFlib");

//starting our page and define the width and highet of the document
pdf_begin_page($pdfFile, 595, 842);

//check if Arial font is found, or exit
if($font = PDF_findfont($pdfFile, "Arial", "winansi", 1)) {
    PDF_setfont($pdfFile, $font, 12);
} else {
    echo ("Font Not Found!");

//start writing from the point 50,780
PDF_show_xy($pdfFile, "This Text In Arial Font", 50, 780);

//store the pdf document in $pdf
$pdf = PDF_get_buffer($pdfFile);
//get  the len to tell the browser about it
$pdflen = strlen($pdfFile);

//telling the browser about the pdf document
header("Content-type: application/pdf");
header("Content-length: $pdflen");
header("Content-Disposition: inline; filename=phpMade.pdf");
//output the document
//delete the object

~ Answered on 2009-10-21 05:49:12

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